1. SPECIAL NOTE TO NEW REGISTRATIONS

    If you recently registered and have not received a confirmation email - please check your 'Spam or Junk' folders. Especially if your email is Hotmail. More help with confirmation issues

    NOTE: This notice may be closed.

    Dismiss Notice
  2. There's more to this forum than meets the eye!

    We have a vibrant community here conversing about all sorts of non-snow topics such as music, sport, politics and technology. Simply register to reveal all our Apr├Ęs topics or continue browsing and reading as a guest.

    NOTE: This notice may be closed.

    Dismiss Notice

Between the nets - behind the scenes at world cup

Discussion in 'Events & FIS' started by sly_karma, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Thought I'd share some behind the scenes pictures and comments from last week's women's world cup speed events at Lake Louise.

    Feeding time at the zoo! Roughly 200 of us in this shot: course workers, timing, radio comms, medical starting to arrive. Everyone meets at 6 am to pick up lunch, eat breakfast, put on ski boots and hear announcements from chief of race and chief of course. Then there are quick individual crew meetings before heading out the door for 7 am lift opening.

    [​IMG]

    The fancy start house is really just a facade in front of a tent. The sponsor logos are velcro backed and can be changed out at will. The facade is a series of aluminium frames bolted together; within minutes of the race ending it is being broken down and stacked in a sling to be flow off the mountain by helicopter. The orange bag is covering the start gate which is mounted in place with screws and stays there for the duration of the race, just the wand itself is installed before timed runs.
    [​IMG]

    The tent is quite crowded during the run with the athlete in the gate, another on deck, the start referee, the starter and a wiring guy ready to fix any possible problem. There's also a big propane heater and not much room for anything else.

    [​IMG]

    View from the DH start, we have just completed our daily test of the wiring, time would be about 7:30 am. Course crew skis down in the dark using headlamps and starts up generators to run the big work lights like the ones you see here down on Sunset Flats. Each jury position on course had a generator and lighting, about a dozen sets in all. The TV shot is totally deceptive as they are shooting uphill, the pitch out of the start is roughly 40 degrees and it's slick as hell. Workers are not permitted to make turns or put an edge into the track, it's a sideslip down two gates to where it flattens out and a snowplow becomes achievable. The track is so polished that controlled sideslipping was not really possible. A lot of the time we were just told to leave the course and ski around this pitch, I was more than happy to oblige.

    [​IMG]

    Flats at Lone Pine about to drop into Ticketty Chutes. I spent a couple of runs here manning an interval timing location. You can see suspended nets on both sides of the course; North Americans refer to this as A net. These nylon nets have a grid size of 5 cm and are 4 m high, suspended from a tensioned steel cable hung from the angled steel posts. The steel posts are flown into place by helicopter during course construction weeks before the race and are removed by the same method by mid January so the run is unobstructed for the public. There is another steel cable at the base of the net with anchors in the snow so that an athlete can't slide under it. The whole thing is tightly stretched so it's like a vertical trampoline. You can see a second, shorter layer which is the slip skirt (aka 'Kitzbuhel"). This is a hard plastic mesh with a grid size of 2 cm - so small that a ski tip cannot hook in it and suddenly arrest the racer like what happened to poor Brian Stemmle on the Hahnenkamm back in the 80s.

    [​IMG]

    Finish line is maybe 200 m from the main lodge, good for crowd viewing. They had all the usual hoopla like VIP tent, hot seat, jumbotron display, etc. Small portable grandstands were far smaller than what you'd see at a European WC DH. In the foreground to the right of the finish arch is an air fence. These are inflatable pads designed to prevent racers from impacts with course structures, in this case the arch anchors and cables and the upper end of the three layers of crowd control fencing that completely encloses the finish bowl. Air fences are dotted right down the length of the course where spot protection of items is required. There's a crew of about ten workers whose sole responsibility is placing, anchoring and maintaining them. They each carry a Makita cordless leaf blower to top up air as needed.

    [​IMG]

    On the far side of the finish line you can see more air fence, plus the course worker assigned to maintain it. We had the same 2 m high air fence directly uphill of us on our side so we could safely sight right along the finish line for taking hand times. The finish arch is inflated too, but it also has an aluminium frame with cable stays to prevent any possibility of it collapsing during a race.

    In this picture are the finish line timing photocells. They are mounted in pairs, with the primary or A system cells being the lower set; the upper beam mounted 20 cm higher is the backup or B system. There's also a standalone timer (C system) plugged directly into one of the photocells to record and preserve all time stamps in the event of a cable failure between the finish line and the timing building. And of course us worker bees using good old eyesight to make a manual record in case of a double photocell failure (D system). Actually the human eye is very accurate in tracking a moving object - I compared the hand times to the photocell times and found average difference to be .05 sec over 60 captures. The other guys had similar success.

    [​IMG]

    Everyone must be out on course because there aren't many radios in the chargers. Wonder what they paid for 180 Motorola VHF radios, chargers, lapel mikes and spare batteries? Apparently they rent them to other sporting events during the year to help offset the large outlay.

    [​IMG]

    The radio comm trailer has these retro consoles from the 90s. They were used to make announcements to all channels simultaneously, there are standard announcements at 90 minutes before the scheduled start time, followed by more at 60 minutes, 45, 30 and 15. We had six separate channels dedicated to timing, course, dye crew, jury, media and medical. Each was running on a repeater but the location of some of them needs to be revised. The timing channel had two dead zones.

    [​IMG]
     
    crackson, currawong, Cuppa and 15 others like this.
  2. gareth_oau

    gareth_oau Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2008
    Messages:
    47,505
    Likes Received:
    17,927
    Location:
    Canning Vale, Perth
    When you said feeding time at the zoo I was kinda hoping you would be detailing your sordid adventures with all of those ravenous women competitors
     
  3. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Sounds like you have a rich inner life there Gareth
     
    currawong, Chaeron and gareth_oau like this.
  4. Ralph_Plow

    Ralph_Plow One of Us

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2017
    Messages:
    1,000
    Likes Received:
    1,241
    Between the sheets??

    Well done Sly, if it wasn't for blokes like you I don't see these events running, and they are awesome to watch and follow.
     
    sly_karma likes this.
  5. dawooduck

    dawooduck relaxed and comfortable Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2002
    Messages:
    57,560
    Likes Received:
    25,593
    Location:
    East Coast
    Thanks for sharing big fella, much appreciated.
     
    sly_karma likes this.
  6. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Time for some shots inside the timing room. The guys from Swiss Timing (branded as Longines for a while now) were happy to answer my many questions when things were quiet. They have a crew of only six - four inside the timing room plus a starter and a 'floater' staged at the start ready to move to any location for troubleshooting and fix. Their equipment is impressive just for its bulk alone, about 3000 kg of it in its road cases used to move from one race site to the next.

    This is the actual timers, rack mount style to keep everything clean and tidy. All custom stuff made in house by Longines and not available for purchase. Also in the rack mount are units for headset input distribution, optical isolation (prevents voltage spikes from damaging equipment), and pulse distribution. They have 14 timing signal channels available, Lake Louise uses 10 (start, 5 intervals, 3 speed traps, finish). At long courses like Kitzbuhel and Wengen they have as many as 7 intervals.

    [​IMG]

    Distribution of timing data to TV and commentator info facilities.

    [​IMG]

    Cedric manages the commentator data, including the athlete bios, results summaries, next in gate and so on. Nine screens!

    [​IMG]
     
    Majikthise likes this.
  7. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Jacques handles the integration of the actual timing data into the TV broadcast feed; ie, the running clock, interval times, speeds and of course the all-important elapsed time and ranking. Another five screens. The two timer operators and the chief of timing had more screens that rounded out to a total of 20 open screens during the race run.

    [​IMG]

    Photocells made by Longines and again not available on the open market. They're big but super powerful, and the four C cells give them several days of race ops on one set of batteries. The lenses were somewhere north of 50 mm in diameter so god knows how expensive they must be.

    Photocellsfor intervals and traps have to be mounted outside the safety netting, so at some key locations they are shooting through A net plus slip skirt, across the 50-60 m wide track and then through another A net/slip skirt combo on the far side. The items we can buy commercially are at the edge of their capabilities in such situations and finicky as hell to aim as a result. Not these bad boys, they still have a huge sweet spot and never took more than a few moments to aim and lock in. The weatherproof case holds a headset and has the comm and timing wiring breakout integrated into it. Ten sets needed for this event, plus some spares.

    [​IMG]

    The use the DIN plug to monitor battery and signal level during the run, so they can notice if a cell starts to drift out of aim.

    [​IMG]

    Big lens for huge signal reception.

    [​IMG]

    At level 0 events (world champs, world cup, Olympics), FIS regs require standalone timers at the start and the finish. And the regs still require hand backup timing even at this level. Us mortals use a stopwatch for hand timing but not the boys at Swiss. They integrated the two functions by giving us a timer synced to Time Of Day along with the main timers, and then plugged it into the start gate or finish line eyes. We recorded hand times by hitting a pushbutton, and the timer also recorded the actual TOD pulse from the start and finish equipment. Both rules satisfied by one piece of equipment! Elegant. And once again all enclosed in a weatherproof case for bulletproof performance.

    [​IMG]

    To top it off, the timer displays the hand time (channel 0) and the electronic time (channel 1) together so the operator can monitor their accuracy (or lack of). I took this at the finish line, managed to get within a thousandth of a second of the photocell. Start line is harder, much easier to track a moving object than the moment a stationary object begins moving.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Izzy

    Izzy One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 1970
    Messages:
    2,074
    Likes Received:
    570
    Location:
    Sawtell, NSW
    Very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to share all that.
     
  9. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2001
    Messages:
    31,833
    Likes Received:
    11,552
    Location:
    macdonaldtown
    this is excellent, thanks!
     
  10. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Thanks to all who read my nerd thread!
     
    crackson, currawong and cruisin along like this.
  11. 2nd_String_QB

    2nd_String_QB Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2010
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    27
    Location:
    Melbourne
    A really fascinating report, thanks sly karma.
    I really feel for the poor crews who do all that work and then see it cancelled due to bad weather!
     
  12. climberman

    climberman CloudRide1000 Legend Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2000
    Messages:
    36,143
    Likes Received:
    20,761
    Location:
    the sunny illawarra
    Great read Sly
     
  13. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    We had one of those last week. The course crews worked hard to remove new snow, including removing sections of net so that groomers can push the snow right outside the track. The run started off with forerunners, six of them. After the fifth forerunner, one of the jury stopped the start and said some course repair was required in his section. The discussion on the jury channel was brief but devastating, essentially the point was: if significant repair is needed after just five forerunners, how will the track handle 60 racers? Temperatures were quite mild and it was felt that repairs wouldn't set up fast enough. We would put the training run on hold for 30-45 minutes for repairs and not get the result we were after. So just like that it was cancelled even though a few people had already run. There had been a full length training run the day before, so the jury knew they had already met the minimum requirement for the race to go ahead.
     
  14. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    But sometimes you have to fight through and do whatever it takes to get a race off. For World Cup it's especially important, since FIS only pays a small amount to the organiser if the race doesn't run. (No TV, no money). The first of the two scheduled DHs was one such day. Two hours before scheduled race time, the resort lost all power due to a transformer fire. They put the lifts on diesel emergency motors and got everyone off. Ski patrol cleared the runs of public, then they pulled everyone uphill with groomers.The racers had to go up twice, as they hadn't had course inspection. The run was moved back an hour and went off successfully. In the pic below you have the best female racers in the world all being dragged uphill by a snow cat. At least this driver kept the tiller down, the cat I was behind lifted the tiller so we skied through groomer debris for all 25 minutes of the ride. Not the most comfortable way to go uphill.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. bigwhite-rameok

    bigwhite-rameok Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2003
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    53
    Location:
    Kelowna, BC, Canada
    Hey Sly - Spent some time with a buddy of yours last weekend at Teck Parsons speed event in Whistler. Chief of Timing there is a super nice guy, but was dragging himself to the timing shack every day getting over a nasty bug. He said you two had a good time at the Lake.
     
  16. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    That would be Henry, he has been Chief of Timing at LL Womens WC for several years now. One very smart cookie.
     
  17. cruisin along

    cruisin along A Local Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2007
    Messages:
    7,662
    Likes Received:
    2,605
    Location:
    CC Terrigal area
    Such an interesting read as us mere observers never get to see how it all works behind the scenes. Loved the groomer pulling the skiers ....can just imagine that at the Olympics
     
    sly_karma likes this.
  18. sly_karma

    sly_karma Part of the Furniture Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    19,946
    Likes Received:
    9,229
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Haha, the Olympics had an opportunity for cat skiing glory when high winds shut down the gondola and caused them to cancel the mens DH for the day. They could have done the same thing we did at LL, but nooooo. Maybe good they didn't, all very well to get to the top by an unusual method, but being blown sideways off an air and into the nets is not how racing is supposed to work.
     
    currawong likes this.
  19. currawong

    currawong Old but not so Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2003
    Messages:
    30,116
    Likes Received:
    13,282
    Location:
    Kiewa Valley
    Really interesting. We have some very minor involvement in timing xc and some land events. Fascinating to hear how the big boys do it